Our culture is under unending siege, hastened in the last 200 years or so, especially after that fellow Macaulay let loose the English language as the surest mantra of ‘impressing’ women (and men) and importantly, making money. So, unlike in the good old bygone eras, when caste and class alone helped one do that (it does even now), with the coming of English and being able to speak it fluently, opened most otherwise closed doors to us Lesser Mortals.
It seems that our basic approach to most problems, including ‘Medium of Instruction’ is dictated by our collective hypocrisy. Is that not the reason why Mr Montek Ahluwalia, of the erstwhile Planning Commission, thought it ‘reasonable’ that Urban and Rural Indians could live on a daily wage of Rs 32 and Rs 26 respectively? Just like our official line on Prohibition where for example in the eternally dry land of Gujarat, alcohol is freely available; any brand, anytime, anywhere, any day, at twice the price. Or the preaching of celibacy by promiscuous god men! Or the Police master-minding an anti-corruption drive! It is this hypocritical attitude that has kept the Poor educationally and psychologically impoverished while covertly letting the ‘English Medium’ (and IMFL) flourish. Of course one has to ensure that one’s kids somehow get into the best or better of these ‘relics of the Raj’ (Convents, Colleges and Clubs) that continue to undermine and pose a threat to our great and glorious civilization.
But having denied the ‘Medium’ to ordinary people, we have on our hands un-employability on a gargantuan scale. Fragmented land holdings and a useless ‘education’ drive the growing demands for reservations among the ‘forward’ clever castes (many others have still to wake up). I don’t think we have an Education Policy, but if we ever have one, here is one thing I would like to see in it.
Meeting the ‘threat’ of private, English Medium schooling
Recent Reports in the Media suggest that as fewer and fewer parents risk sending their kids to government schools, even as the Private Education Mafia (PEM) is booming and ‘dhooming’. Their trade secret, known to even the unschooled, being ‘English Medium’! There appears to be a parallel between the projected great rural to urban migration and the current exodus from government to private schools, though unfortunately excluding Montek’s APL miserables! Are there unfathomable cosmic forces at play here or is it just a question of ‘Medium’? While common sense says it must be Macaulay’s ‘Medium’, those mandated with the safety and security of our bygone and yet-to-come Millenium would have kids begin all over again, this time with Sanskrit and minus the ‘Medium’.
But that WAIT could be long. Meanwhile our aspiring demographic dividend is impatient. Much to the dismay of the elected wise men (and some women), Crash Courses on ‘Spocken Inglish’ abound. Having missed the ‘Medium’ the urge to make up and quickly is palpable. Millions are taking the plunge and are paying billions now to the PEM (another loss of revenue to government like that from excise on liquor). What in the world brought us (one of the largest English knowing countries on Earth) to this pass?
Like with any failing or disease, hypocrisy too needs to be acknowledged first. The treatment could then be calibrated to work. We need to acknowledge that the English Language is a MUST and Indians being good at it will not wipe out our civilization. Without it our demographic dividend would be on boats, like Syrian refugees, clandestinely trying to reach forbidden shores, a risk equal to if not greater than attending a government school back in the village. So, what to do?
English should become a compulsory subject from Class I in all government schools. Unlike other impositions, this would be most welcome, especially by the frustrated aspiring classes. Between classes VI and VII, the ‘Medium’ should be increasingly in English. And class IX onwards fully in English. If this is going to be a huge climb down for our cultural stance and patriotism, then so be it. Maybe this choice can be made optional, a face-saver for hard boiled Lotus-heads, if the Government of India is willing to loosen its purse strings on Education. In a few years, the need for this ‘option’ will disappear.
The challenge though could be getting enough ‘good’ English language teachers. The rules of the game may need some tweaking, but India does have these people. Teachers are now well paid and with the next Pay Commission recommendations, pregnant with promise, there should be no dearth of willing and acceptable talent.
Though ‘hiring’ the right stuff may remain problematic; given the pervasiveness of the ‘Tau of Teachers’